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April 4, 2016

Try Knocking

Try Knocking

MOTIVATIONAL MONDAY – Last night during dinner, one side of the table was insisting, pleading, demanding that those on the other side of the table “stay in the game.” But it went further than staying in the game. The veteran coach was insisting that the women at the table pursue the head coaching ranks in women’s hoops because men are getting too many jobs. We are falling behind, letting them take those jobs from us now, with more money, attention and egos in the women’s game.


The score?


According to one source, female coaches represent 58 percent of the coaching population today. Don’t quote me, but I am guessing that the numbers run across Division I-III, JUCO and NAIA. Five of the six coaches here in the final games are men.


The underlying issues are a personal lifestyle preference, a gender issue, a cultural fit or a combination of all of these. The rigors of coaching along with the stress of head coaching, in a career with very few guarantees, takes a toll on relationships and family life. Typically it’s the wife who stays home, manages the house and packs up the family as the man goes job to job. Many women in the highest ranks, when they hit their 40s and are eligible for those big jobs, have sacrificed so much time and personal life by then that they fear putting the job over their relationship with their significant other or over their kids. It’s just not worth it personally, emotionally or financially.


Then I put the question on the table as to why we are not pursuing jobs in the men’s game.


“Because we’d never get them.”


I later thought about how much this one bugged me, more than the females leaning on us to coach in the female ranks. Why? I’m going to give men more credit.


I’m going to say that if one of us wanted to coach badly enough on the men’s side – if I wanted to coach badly enough on the men’s side – I would earn my position because of good men like Greg Popovich and even a Pat Fitzgerald, who believe in true merit, integrity, fairness and opportunity.


I think if we pursued it, if we asked, if we kept proving our value, that doors would open. Granted most will remain locked. Some will be slammed in our face. But we have to ask.


And we have to measure. I know how many applicants and resumes I receive from males and females for positions in the youth coaching world. I will write a separate story on how qualified the women are – and if you took out gender and picked based on merit – you would understand why our staff is as diverse as it is. You would also know how other programs operate when it comes to job openings. But that’s a general observation. I have not measured it (yet) and until I do, it’s important to not take it too far.


So let’s move on to why women want to stay in the women’s game.


Then my friend said she values the impact she has on young women.
“We’re the last ones who have any chance at impacting them before they go out into the real world,” she said. “I want to give them everything I can to help them prepare.”


The same issue came up in Geno Auriemma’s book, “In Pursuit of Perfection.”
Here’s the excerpt:


“What else would I do? Part of me would love to give the men’s game a try. I think it’s probably too late for me, now that I’ve hit fifty years old, but strictly from a competitive standpoint, I really, really, really would love to sit across from the sidelines from some of the guys I’ve never coached against but have tremendous respect for, like Phil Martelli, like Bobby Knight, like Roy Williams. Give me a level playing field, and let me see if I can adjust to that game. Part of me would love to do that. Then there’s another part of me that despises the entire culture. You can’t get guys to play hard anymore. If a player jogs, the coaches clap, because it passes for working hard. If a guy makes an attempt to do something, it’s cause for celebration. What happened to doing your job just because you’re supposed to. It’s the culture. From the time those kids are thirteen, someone is kissing their ass and telling them how great they are. So the entitlement level is so high that coaches have to worry almost more about staying on their star’s good side so they don’t turn on them, because they’re so used to having their way. I’m not sure I’d want any part of that. Of course, it’s not like I’ve turned down all these opportunities. No one has ever offered me a men’s job.”


I think it’s a bad idea to respond to a stereotype with another stereotype. I just watched a men’s NCAA game and didn’t see any of the showboating. I’d like to think the kids on Villanova are decent kids and Jay Wright is a fine leader of an exceptional culture.


Just like Geno Auriemma.


If Geno wins tomorrow night, he will surpass Wooden’s achievement of 10 national championships. And if he can’t get a job offer on the men’s side, then maybe there is some truth to it. Maybe the NCAA should consider all that it stands for with Title IX as it applies to players, and start setting some benchmarks to level the playing field. Why not start recording the number of applicants for the positions? Then we can prove what’s really happening.


But until then, for now, all we have to ponder is how did Becky Hammon do it?


It wasn’t an automatic door that opened as soon as Becky walked up to it. She actually had to choose the door, then pick the doorbell or a firm knock. And if no one answered, it was fine to check the handle. I don’t care how it’s done – just get the door open.


Once it’s open, it’s much easier to demonstrate integrity and prove your abilities. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to assess if you’re in the right culture for you.


I’d have to read up to find out if Becky put herself in the spot to be asked to participate or if she was asked to pursue the opportunity. Male or female, if you know what you want – head coach in the women’s game to the top assistant, the head and assistant on the men’s side to the equipment manager to the video coordinator – find the position you want, factor in the timing, objectively evaluate your experience and go get more if you don’t have enough of it. Make sure the culture and the characters are the right fit. And only then, if it doesn’t work out, come back and tell me that we would never get the job. The bad news is that you didn’t get the job. The good news is that at the very least, you tried.